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Amazon launches Smart Commerce in India to help offline stores launch digital storefronts

Amazon said it will help neighborhood stores across India launch their own digital storefronts to better serve their customers, the latest effort by the e-commerce giant as it attempts to leverage the dense network of offline stores in the key overseas market.

Amazon on Wednesday launched Smart Commerce, a new offering that will allow stores to create their own online storefronts and also offer in-store shopping experience to their walk-in customers.

The new offering is built atop Smart Stores, another program the US giant had launched two years ago to help neighborhood outlets serve their walk-in customers. Two years ago, it also launched Local Shops, a program that allows offline stores to sell directly on Amazon. Amazon said stores of any size can sign up for Smart Commerce and the company will provide them assistance with logistics and digital payments.

“We are humbled by how neighborhood stores from across India are taking advantage of our Local Shops on Amazon program to go online and grow their business, with over 1.5 lakh stores already selling on Amazon.in within two years of launch,” said Amit Agarwal, SVP of India and Emerging Markets at Amazon, at a virtual event.

“Today, we are excited to launch Smart Commerce that will enable any store to truly become a digital dukaan, and serve customers with the best of Amazon no matter where they are.”

Smart Commerce will offer a range of features to stores including the ability to digitize billing, manage inventory, as well as a voice and chat-based shopping experience, the firm said. It will start to roll out some of these features in the coming weeks.

Amazon, which has invested over $6.5 billion in its India operations, said over 125,000 neighborhood stores are already selling online using its marketplace.

Amazon, and its chief rival in India, Flipkart, have scrambled to explore ways to work with neighborhood stores across the country in recent years. These mom-and-pop stores offer all kinds of items, are family-run and pay low wages and little to no rent. Because they are ubiquitous — there are more than 30 million neighborhood stores in India, according to industry estimates — no retail giant can offer a faster delivery. And on top of that, their economics are often better than most of their digital counterparts.

Meta is also keeping an eye on this segment. It has partnered with Reliance Retail, India’s largest retail chain, which is bringing several of its commerce offerings to WhatsApp. Google, too, has invested in a startup that is helping stores across the nation serve customers online.

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